Have you got a question about India? Here are the top six most frequently asked at Explore – contact us on 01252 883184 if what you want to know isn’t here!
Q. Is it safe for solo ladies?
A. As with anywhere in the world we recommend you exercise caution when travelling alone, especially after dark. However, Indians are very friendly and usually attention is out of curiosity; they simply want to find out where you’re from and have a chat. Dress respectfully, trust your instincts and you’ll be fine.
Q. What if I don’t like spicy food?
A. No problem, as with restaurants in the UK, just explain to your guide or waiter that you don’t like spicy food and they’ll take this into account or recommend milder dishes such as butter chicken or dal makhani, which are both delicious. If you do end up with something hotter than you can handle then just ask for yoghurt and use this to calm it down a little!
Q. What about clothes? Should my shoulders be covered?
A. Care should be taken to cover up when visiting mosques and temples, especially shoulders and head - and you may be asked to remove your shoes before entry. You may be denied access if you’re not dressed appropriately. Generally women should have knees and shoulders covered at all times and avoid low-cut or strappy tops. It’s a good idea to take a pashmina or shawl so you can wrap up when necessary; these can be bought very cheaply in most markets throughout India.
Q. What are the trains like?
A. The trains vary throughout India; there are very basic “cattle class” carriages, second and first class, plus the rather ostentatious Deccan Odyssey luxury train. We don’t tend to book 3rd class, opting for the more comfortable 2nd or 1st class carriages, which are air-conditioned with comfortable seats. Snacks or a light lunch are sometimes included depending on your route. Luggage is stored overhead, toilets are located at the end of the carriage, and you are pre-assigned a seat so there’s no worry about scrambling in to grab one. Sometimes hard-seater trains are the only option - toy trains into the highlands for example - and while these aren’t the most comfortable, the scenery is amazing.
As India is such a huge country there are many overnight sleeper train routes which we use. A 1st class sleeper train has four compartments, which are shut off from the main corridor. Bedding is provided and a guard will come round in the evening and make the bed up for you. There are also two-tier (four to a berth) and three-tier (six to a berth) options available, which offer air-conditioning but berths are separated from the walkway by a curtain rather than a door.
In all classes you’ll be sharing with other travellers. Trains are a fabulous way to travel; they’re exciting, you get to meet local people, try various drinks and snacks that the wallahs sell as they wander up and down the carriages, all while enjoying the changing scenery outside.
Q. Delhi belly…?
A. While nobody likes to talk about their bowel movements, on a trip to India it’s possibly inevitable, especially if it’s your first time! The best way to avoid an upset stomach is to be cautious about where and what you eat - meat, fruit and salad off a street stall isn’t recommended as you don’t know how long it has been sat there etc. Don’t drink the tap water and wash your hands regularly; perhaps take an antibacterial gel with you. Also take rehydration sachets and diarrhoea tablets in your bag just in case.